Today in research: a wild time texting, monkey mind control, quibbling with Nobel, and the world's best university for researchers.. 

  • Texting while driving makes people twice as slow to react to things. Like say, a yellow light. In a study that involved researchers patiently monitoring 42 participants as they barreled around on a 11-mile test course while texting, drivers reaction times were very delayed when they were typing on their phone. Even more so than in previous studies, as the Reuters headline goes. Apparently things got a little wild on that test track too, said the lead author to the news outlet: "Even though we had participants drive at 30 miles an hour with very wide lanes on the test track, we still had many close calls." [Reuters]
  • Nobel Prize fever is becoming a tad much. Substitute some words here and there, and Carl Zimmers Discover magazine post about the defects of the awards week (and a few positives) could've been written by dozens of entertainment writers about the Oscars. That doesn't make his critique any less valid: "Should scientists get credit for great work? Of course. But that's what history is for. Charles Darwin and Leonardo da Vinci never got the Nobel Prize, but somehow we still manage to remember them as important figures anyway. The time that’s spend arguing over whether someone should get fifty percent of a prize or twenty-five percent or zero percent could be spent on much better things, like more science." To be fair, Darwin died 13 years before the Nobel Prizes were established in 1885, da Vinci quite a bit earlier. [Discover]
  • The top research university in the world is not named Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc. The UK's Times Higher Education magazine had shocking news for people who go to school "in Cambridge": for the first year since 2004, it's been dethroned. By Cal Tech. Even the editor in charge of the rankings seemed sheepish: "It's not that Harvard has declined. It's that Caltech has just slightly edged across the line in the indicators," reported The Los Angeles Times. It's not you Harvard, it's them--plus you'll always have U.S. News & World Report. [Times Higher Education, The Los Angeles Times]   
  • It's pretty amazing what mind control technology (and the monkeys controlling it) can do.  The video below, courtesy of Duke University research, shows what happens on a computer screen when brain reading technology is hooked up to a monkey who then controls an avatar arm (while his real arms rest) to identify the correctly "textured" button on the screen. The whole experiment is in the name of advancing prosthetic technology for those paralyzed, as The Guardian reported. The monkeys, according to the researchers, seemed to have caught on pretty quickly: "the combination of seeing an appendage that they control and feeling a physical touch tricks them into thinking that the virtual appendage is their own 'within minutes,'" relayed ScienceNow. [Wired, The Guardian]